Yesterday was Memorial Day. The national holiday exists as a way to formally remember dead members of the American armed forces of all wars. The New York Times Almanac says that it honors soldiers fallen in battle, dating from the civil war. In real life it honors dead people even if they survived the wars.
This holiday has become a time to wave flags, have parades, decorate graves, and, yes, honor our military dead, whether dead from battle or other causes. I am glad that the city of Madison honored Rick as a veteran of the Korean war, along with others who served in the military, although I did not go to the ceremony. I did stop to visit the graves of my parents and grandmother in Sturgeon Bay.
Since I was on the road yesterday with the radio tuned to my favorite radio station (WDOR), I listened to a program that gave rise to the thought that maybe some of us are mixing the national holiday with religious sentiment. The program, Heroes, was a well performed musical and spoken tribute to some people who did good things in their lives and were, therefore, heroes. Most of the program was music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Not surprisingly, the program was produced in Salt Lake City.
I enjoyed the music but was a bit troubled about the question of blurring separation of church and state in honor of this holiday. They sang America the Beautiful and Amazing Grace, along with some others. One of the Heroes was someone who became a pastor or minister.
It’s interesting to me that Memorial Day, in some places, has religious overtones while being a national, not religious, holiday. And vice versa. So much for separation of church and state.
We blur the line for other national holidays, most notably Thanksgiving Day, when we give thanks for plenty of food and other things. Some churches have Thanksgiving Day services, even though it is a national holiday that remembers the early settlers surviving their colonization and bringing in their first harvest. The mythology brings in some happy Indians who help celebrate. This day is a day of prayer and feasting in celebration mostly about how wonderful our early settlers were to give us this bountiful nation. The native Americans may have a different view of this day.
I think the most pointless of our national days is St. Patrick’s Day. It is religious, political and social all in one. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. Somehow the entire United States has adopted St. Patrick, with Irish stew, green clothes, green beer, green rivers, and parades. To me it makes little sense except in church. The second most pointless day is Groundhog Day. Who really cares about the myth about the weather? It's all fun. Fun is ok, but should we have a holiday for it?
Some holidays are Christian but have secular expressions. Christmas and Easter are both religious and secular. Just think about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Do rabbits lay colored eggs? Even the President does Easter with an egg hunt annually on the White House lawn.
A little more than a week ago we had Armed Forces Day, the third Saturday of May. I didn’t notice anyone celebrating that. And National Maritime Day was May 22. Missed that one, too. National Teacher Day was the Tuesday of the first full week in May, May 12. We could honor teachers by giving better funding to education for all ages. Of course we all celebrated Mother’s Day May 10, a day that Rick called a Hallmark holiday because it increased greeting card business.
There are others. The mythology just hasn’t caught up with me yet.